Wiky council set to switch energy focus to solar power

by Robin Burridge

WIKWEMIKONG—On June 14, the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve officially announced the removal of wind turbines from their Renewable Energy Plan. This decision was reached at a band and council meeting held on June 17, where the council voted to remove wind power from the plan after overwhelming opposition from the community.

“The strong opposition was ultimately deciding factor in the decision,” said Chief Hazel Fox-Recollet during an interview with The Expositor. “Myself and the council heard the band members loud and clear.”

She explained that wind power opposing band members convinced the council of their points through the presentation of  human, animal, and environmental impacts that had not been brought forward when wind power had initially been incorporated into their Renewable Energy Plan.

According to the press release distributed by the band office, “a comprehensive community survey was conducted in 2008 with a total of 439 band members participating in the survey with 59 percent in support of wind farm development.”

The wind opposition felt that band membership, at the time, was not “fully informed of both the pros and cons.” The press release also stated that a petition that was presented during the meeting indicated almost 400 signatures of community members opposing wind farm development was a powerful persuader.

“We are in support of green energy,” said Chief Fox-Recollet, “but we are shifting our focus to solar energy.”

The chief explained that they have spent a significant amount of revenue, between $1.4 and $1.6 million dollars, to reach a point where the Ontario Power Authority indicated that Wikwemikong would be granted a Feed In Tariff (FIT) contract. However, the chief said, the band was not awarded a contract when they were announced by the Government of Ontario in the fall of 2010.

She noted that the $1.4 to $1.6 million was spent over a six year period on wind testing, research and development, staff, and traveling to government meetings and programs. She stated that this was a “significant amount of money” and that chief and band council will be actively pursing reimbursement.

Moving forward with the Renewable Energy Plan, the chief and council plan to “gather and analyze the situation and identify opportunities, in addition to adopting a focus on solar energy and conservation.”